9.19.2009

We Don't Need No Stinkin' Rainbows! For White People Who Have Considered Suicide

Now you know I just have to weigh on on all of the race talk - or as I think of it, lack of candor in the discussion on race that is barely taking place in the public sphere these days. Look, let's face it, as a country, we do a lousy job of talking, thinking or even acknowledging race as a major issue in our society. One of the reasons that BHO's "A More Perfect Union" speech last year is so admired, is because he dared to be fair and even handed in discussing one of the most, explosive, misunderstood and just plain frustrating facets of human, but especially US society.


I am black. I do not capitalize the term nor do I like to be called African-American. I'm a black woman in a now dominate, but fading, white culture. I see that the status quo is slowly changing and I think, "well good, that's what this country is all about - mixing and making it better!" Unfortunately, a great swath of that once, and still dominate white culture is not so happy. I suppose that if I were white, I might feel the same way. After all, it's hard to give up being the king, right? But being black, a person of color, and considered (albeit probably unconsciously) an outsider, I see things quite differently. And I understand that most white people can't see it the way I do, cause, well, alert the media, they're white.


About 15 years ago (oh, how I shutter to think that I can now say "15 years ago" and not be referring to elementary school), I got into a heated discussion with my sister and mother about how aware white people are about prejudice. I maintained that I thought most white people had no idea it was (and surprise, still is) an ever present reality for black, brown, red & yellow peoples. I thought, and well, still think, that most white people actually believe that there is a level playing field, that everyone has the same opportunities and is judged, hired, loved, schooled, sentenced & thought of more or less the same. It's a very logical position for people who don't think much. And let's be honest, most people do not think. We as humans, find it difficult to think in terms that are not wholly dictated by our own experience. It takes intelligence to put yourself in someone else's shoes without having directly experienced their circumstance. And if those teabaggers prove anything, it's that you can get a gaggle of assholes who don't think to think they can.


So I give white people a pass on this for the most part. Ya'll are ignorant and don't know it. Okay. The problem comes when someone points out either statistics, anecdotes, articles, people or whatever, that support the actual truth that something is out there and it ain't Mulder & Scully. It's the ugly cancer of racism and you just might be infected. That problem gets bigger when WP cannot see at all how their behavior is informed by their own privilege and anger ensues. The enemy isn't the things that keep us apart, it becomes people who point out the truth. To combat this malady, I highly recommend Tim Wise, a white guy, who, according to my philosophy, is highly intelligent because he is able to see beyond his experience and articulate it beautifully. He brings up shit I never thought of to explain why the black experience in the US is fucked up on so many levels.


Yeah, it's hard to face up to the fact that your (that's you white people) actions, thoughts and lives are shaped by race. And, on the face of it, that is admirable. You want the field to be level. You want to think that your success and that of your family is based purely on talent, hard work and perseverance. But it isn't. Never was. We all got a hand helping us or one swatting us down. Your hand? It was a helper. Don't be ashamed of that fact, own it. And once owned, it will be much easier for you to see those around you who did not have those same advantages and perhaps, just perhaps, you can understand that the playing field is not level and never was and will never be unless you do some leveling yourself. I know that's is a difficult thing to do, because it's easy to think initially, you will be handicapping yourself. But really, you won't be, you'll be lifting up the generations that come after you. And isn't that a legacy to be proud of?


Legacies to not be so proud of? Well, I got a few those.


Case #1 - Addison Graves. I, like many citizens, watched BHO, POTUS that is, give his health care reform address to Congress. I watched many on the right side of the aisle behave like high school kids in an assembly right before summer break. They were rude (Eric Cantor, put down your fucking Blackberry!!) and boo-hooed many of the President's statements. Alas, I literally did a double take when I heard either, "liar" or "you lie" come from somewhere on the floor. Like others, I was sure it was some loser in the gallery and not a member of Congress. Imagine my surprise (and yours too, admit it) when I heard that it was a Congressman, one from South Carolina. Side note: what is up with pols from the SC? Is it something in the water down there?

Back to Addison. Okay, I'm not one to think that free speech oughta be stifled, but I was bothered by the lack of decorum and, let's face it, downright rudeness. I did not like George W Bush or many, if any of his policies. I think he pissed on the Constitution almost every day he held office. I think he made one of the worst foreign policy blunders in the history of the world. I think he lied on numerous occasions to the Public and thousands of people have died as a result. And in spite of all of those things, and that's just the tip of the iceberg folks, I think that he deserved respect, at the very least, when he was in front of the House of Congress. They can talk bad about him all they want on the House floor, but when he was addressing them, they should give him the courtesy of saying his peace. And really, he deserved a bit of respect from the People as long as we were unable or unwilling to call him out. That might be a bit too much deference - he's the President so we can't prosecute/impeach/throw out, arrest, disown, denounce him! But that is our problem, not his. As long as he held office, he gets a bit of respect.


Guess Republicans can't say the same, can they? I am fine with a little laughing, booing or other such broad display of disagreement with statements in an address to Congress. What I could and cannot get over, is the very specific words of "you lie!" It's really impossible not to conclude that this outburst was racism and xenophobia wrapped up in one rude comment. Don't think so? Lemme tell you why. Two things - actual words interrupting POTUS tell you that the interrupter does not have respect for the interruptee. Why would that be the case? BHO has been president for about 9 months. He really hasn't done more less than, I think anyone else would have done in his position. You can not like his policies, but there is really no reason to not have respect for him and allow him to say his peace. I gotta conclude that Rep. Graves really has a problem with POTUS that doesn't have a lot to do with he does or doesn't do, it is about him personally. And since we all know he's a cool dude, it's probably because he's a cool black dude.


Next point, what was POTUS talking about when interrupted? Brown people. Graves claims, his emotions got the best of him; he was swept up in anger and just blurted it out. Uh huh. His outburst and display of anger was because that he thinks illegal immigrants (read: brown people or "mexicans" - not that these guys choose to make distinctions between Canadians, Mexicans, Central Americans, South Americans, Irish, Africans, Islanders...) might get health insurance. Not that thousands of people die in the this country every year for lack of health insurance and therefore, lack of health care. Not because we lose talented minds to drugs and prison. Not because we have an epidemic of sexual diseases in this country. Not because we don't have a cure for cancer yet. No, he got angry because people might stay well or get healed when sick? He got so mad that his anger boiled over thinking about the possibility of some brown people getting basic human care? Is he insane? Get mad over people dying, losing their homes for no good reason, having their dignity shat upon aimlessly, but getting that angry over a theoretical possibility that Kaiser Permanente might do a prostate test for Jose? Are you fucking kidding me?


Take a moment to donate to Rob Miller, Graves' Democratic opponent in 2010. I know I will. Plus, he's kinda cute (you know I couldn't resist). Oh, and please don't call Addison Joe Wilson. Joe Wilson is a patriot. Joe Wilson was an ambassador. Joe Wilson's name is really Joseph Wilson. Graves' name is Addison Graves.


Case #2 - The Chatterati Class' unwillingness to admit race has a lot to do with the vehemence currently being outwardly displayed against POTUS is a bit startling. Take people showing up to Presidential events with weapons. This has never happened in modern history. Even when Bill Clinton signed the Brady Bill, people did not show up to his events with guns. Why is it happening now? Well, low and behold, some white people don't like the fact that an uppity nigra in the White House you know. Bringing those guns? That is showing him who is really boss. Blacks know this well, "don't get too big for your britches nigger, we'll shoot you right down!" Literally. This is racism/prejudice/race hatred all wrapped up in an assault riffle, just to remind BHO (and all of us other uppity negroes) that not all that long ago, Emmett Till has killed for whistling at a white woman. You know that saying, "never forget"? Well we don't. The Media does. But that just goes back to my initial premise; the Media is largely white. And alas, that means they don't know any better. But they are supposed to be intelligent. Actually, extremely intelligent, so I'm going to guess that part of their shocking lack of candor and powers of observation is because of two things. One, they have made the calculation that to speak truth would upset some imaginary apple cart. And two, their own whiteness gets in the way of seeing and interpreting racist actions for what they are: racist.

Advice to the Media? Grow a pair!


Case #3 - Serena Williams. I have not watched the rant on purpose. I think she was wrong. If she said half of what I have heard reported, poor child was madder than I can think of anyone being. But at least she was mad about something that involves her directly - her well being, her money, her life, her career. Not some ideology or philosophy that she was afraid is losing ground. I suppose I could work up quite the vulgar rant if my financial well-being was being directly threatened.

Where I think the race issue comes in, is how black women are largely perceived by the white world. If we display mad, sarcastic or some other behavior observed in white folk all the time, all of the sudden, we're "threatening". Hell, it sounds like Serena was threatening. However, I'm still most disappointed in her. Black women are burdened with the perception of being hard and mean and bitchy and threatening everyday in every way. Conventional wisdom is that we are meaner, louder, bullier, nastier, fouler, angrier than other women. We can't keep our mouths shut. We can't just be nice. We can't keep our voices down or our men out of trouble (that's another post). We are not loving, caring, soft or nurturing. That is what a lot of people think of black woman and Serena just confirmed it for a hell of a lot of them. Man, if there were white guys thinking of asking black women out, I think they're reconsidering now...

I know the call was hard one to take. I know there have been questionable ones in the past. I know that she's a fierce competitor. But I wish she hadn't gone quite so far. Not that I think she would have escaped criticism altogether if she had been less vulgar, but I wish that she could have remembered that the field is not level. And won't be for a while, not until we blend. Not until we have erased years of some of the most insidious treatment people have endured in history. I wish she would have had some class. I wish she hadn't done it.


Case #4 - ACORN. Details are not important here. Whether or not some staffers did unwise things are not at issue. What is at issue is that ACORN has become a boogie man for the right wing. ACORN has become a defacto code word for blacks & browns, you know, the poor people. I have no thoughts that the entire ACORN organization is the worst thing that ever happened to government grants. But I do wonder why these zealots spend their time trying to bury a mere $6 million a year group, that, as far as I can tell, never killed or raped people, humiliated groups or terrified regions, or did so at our behest of our government for the humble sum of $240 million a year.


But then again, Z (formerly Blackwater) is a white organization. And it doesn't help poor people. It helps white people. It helps some white people become rich, very rich. It doesn't seem to do much to help anyone outside its own sphere. It does seem to be about screwing the people for the benefit of a few. Yeah, I said it. Take that and put in your damned teabags. And while you're at, define socialism and fascism as well as communism and capitalism.


Didn't think so.


*************


No, racism is not gone. It is very much alive and on display. The days of white dominance are dying. It's a creeping feeling, confirmed everyday by the election of brown people to positions of power; by the hiring of minorities at companies; by the influence of hip hop, salsa and other ethnic forms of music into the mainstream. It's Oprah. It's Telemundo. It's Jet Li. It's a thousand and one things that white people feel are taking over their country. The problem is, they're right and they're wrong. Our culture is changing. But it's not their country; it's all of our country. The brains trusts are slowing migrating from WASP to many walks of life, schools of thought and prisms of experience. But it will be alright, I promise. As long as we hold this truth to be evident, all men & women are created equal, we will have a society that is vibrant and diverse. It doesn't have to be white to be good. It just has to be good.

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